The ruling Cambodian People’s Party appears poised to absorb 11 more seats in the National Assembly, bringing their majority to almost two-thirds, while royalist party Funcinpec’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh vowed his party – also set to take a substantial block of seats – would not become “slaves” to Hun Sen.
Two minor parties have flatly rejected parliamentary seats set to be redistributed to them under newly amended laws should the Supreme Court rule to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, a move Prime Minister Hun Sen has said will come “soon”.
The League for Democracy Party, headed by Khem Veasna, was due to claim six seats, and the Khmer Anti-Poverty Party, led by Daran Kravanh, would have been handed five, but the parties have said the seats were “meaningless” and it would be unfair to contradict the voters’ will. Their refusal means those seats would go to the CPP according to the widely criticised new laws.
In contrast, Prince Ranariddh said Funcinpec would gladly fill the 41 seats it would be entitled to – an apparent throwback to the 1990s when the CPP and Funcinpec governed as a coalition.
But the prince maintained it would be different 20 years on. “We are prepared to work in the government, and so please, dare to support us. Do not say that once we work with them, that we are their slaves,” he said.
“For points that we need to agree with for the sake of peace for the nation, we will comply with; we will oppose the points that we should oppose. The most terrible is the one that always opposes [or] always complies.”
Political analyst Meas Nee, however, doubted the prince’s claims. Banding together with the government, he said, was “about keeping Funcinpec alive, not serving the society”.
Indeed, since its ’90s heyday, the party has slipped into irrelevance, failing to win a single seat in parliament in 2013, or a single commune in local elections this year.
“Funcinpec has no other choice besides this: living in silence,” Nee said.
In the amended Law on the Election of the Members of the National Assembly – which is due to pass the Senate tomorrow, but still must be signed by the King to be brought into effect – Article 138 states that if seats are abandoned by the party granted them, “the NEC has to distribute the vacant seats to the political parties which have seats in the National Assembly”.
The clause is open to interpretation and the new laws mark unchartered territory, but it appears to benefit the ruling party. If the opposition party is dissolved, the CPP will be the only party in the National Assembly and would therefore inherit any seats rejected during the redistribution process. Alternately, if the NEC decided to apply the standard electoral formula for awarding seats including the CPP, the weight of their votes would still deliver them all 11 seats.
National Election Committee spokesman Hang Puthea said the body hadn’t decided how to interpret the law, but will “check and implement the law’s meaning”.
Yoeung Sotheara, Comfrel’s law and monitoring officer, said if the CPP – which won almost half the votes cast in the 2013 election – is put back into the equation with the minor parties, it was sure to gain seats because it has the highest number of votes.
“If a party which they planned to give the seats to rejects to take the seat, the seat, like it or not, will be handed to the ruling party and . . . the ruling party’s seats will increase,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday said although the CPP did not “want” the extra seats, it would happily take them. The CPP would then hold 79 of the 123 seats in parliament.
“If it will be handed to CPP, the CPP cannot argue that because the law requires this,” he said.